As the petition seeking the repeal of Article 35A is coming up for hearing in the Supreme Court next week, Kashmir has been gripped by tension. Separatist groups, mainstream parties, traders and business bodies have threatened to launch an agitation if the Act was tinkered with.

The possibility of a repeal of Article 35A — which grants special privileges and rights to the permanent residents of J&K and debars non-residents from buying land or property, getting government jobs, or voting in the Assembly elections in the state — has evoked strong resentment in the volatile region.

The latest to join the bandwagon to defend Article 35A are 27 organisations of traders, businessmen, industrialists, hoteliers, transporters and fruit growers who warned that the “hereditary state-subject law of Jammu and Kashmir will be protected at any cost”.

“This matter is related to the life and death of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and we all are ready to spill our blood to safeguard this law,” the traders warned on Monday.

The Article 35A — incorporated in the Constitution in 1954 — has been in the eye of a storm for the past several years since a petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking its repeal. The petition was filed by a New Delhi-based NGO, We the Citizens, before the Supreme Court in 2014 and is scheduled for hearing on August 6.

Residents fear the repeal of the Article would threaten the majority status of Muslims in the region and also open a floodgate for non-locals to purchase property and settle in the state, which is illegal under the existing law.

The fear has been accentuated by the separatist and mainstream leaders, including legislators, who have warned of an agitation against attempts “to tinker” with the law.

“Any attempt to tinker with the distinctive status of Jammu and Kashmir will be opposed tooth and nail,” said Aijaz Mir, a Peoples Democratic Party legislator from south Kashmir.

Congress legislator from north Kashmir Usman Majid said: “If Article 35A is scrapped, it will engulf whole India. If Article 35A is scrapped, it will lead to a civil war in Kashmir. If the BJP and RSS think that this war will remain restricted to Kashmir, they are living in a fool’s paradise,” Majid said.

“If they do (repeal the law), they will invite trouble for entire India and the region. Article 35A is our right and we will not tolerate any attempt to fiddle with it,” said Majid, who is also a former minister.

While mainstream political leaders have adopted the rhetoric of separatists and are issuing threats to launch an agitation, the separatist leaders have called for a two-day shutdown in the region and have described any attempt to change or repeal the law as a “serious assault launched against the people of Kashmir”.

“We want to make it clear that Kashmiris will not take this attack on them lying down. Any and every attempt made at changing the demographic nature of the state will be resisted,” three key separatist leaders warned in a joint statement.